06 September, 2010
It's the barrel that's rotten
On the night of 3rd July 2008, Pamela Somerville decided to spend the night in her car after a row with her boyfriend. The following morning the car didn’t start, because she had left the heater on, and the police arrived. She asked them for a jump start. They took her to Melksham Police Station and charged her with refusing to give a breath test, a charge she denies and which was later withdrawn.
Sergeant Mark Andrews, seemingly exasperated by Ms Somerville’s repeated requests to know why she was being held, grabbed her and threw her into a cell. She was injured when she was thrown on the floor and was bleeding. For a while she was unconscious. All this is on film, the officer has been convicted of assault and will be sentenced, almost certainly thrown out of the force.
So far so good. But we need to ask ourselves why the officer behaved like this. It is certain that he knew there was CCTV in the police station and yet, in front of the cameras, committed what can only be described as an act of serious violence on an innocent member of the public..
The answer is that Ms Somerville was suspected of the worst crime in the police manual: drinking and driving. It will not have occurred to Sergeant Andrews that she might have been innocent, and he felt he was able to treat her like a violent terrorist suspect. Such is the culture n the Wiltshire Police Force (I have been stopped, quite near Melksham, stone cold sober at 2am by the only 2 officers on duty, and we discussed my car’s tax disc while people were being raped and burgled). It is the culture of many British Police Forces.
This is not a case of a rotten apple in the barrel, it's a case of a rotten barrel.
Which is what brings me back to Chief Constable Brian Moore. He is responsible for the attitude of his officers. He is responsible for finding out what sort of policing the people of Wiltshire want and delivering it (I assure you it isn’t arresting sober people in their cars).
Mr Moore has failed in his job and has failed in his duty to the public. He must resign.